Sunday, September 27, 2009

READING: Here Comes Everybody

Shirky's Here Comes Everbody is a sophisticated glimpse into the social and economic changes taking place as the internet helps drive us from an industrial paradigm into a digital, information economy.

Referencing numerous anecdotes and an impressive range of social science concepts, Shirky explores the subtleties of how evolving electronic communication tools have facilitated radically new group behavior.

Shirky maps out how the internet challenges the logic of conventional institutions.

As much the internet has dropped transaction costs, it has reshaped the marketplace that made institutions as we know them necessary.

Now that the landscape of transaction costs has been fundamentally altered, the stability of institutions is very much problematized.


Charting changes from mass amateurization to the ability of ephemeral groups of people to spontaneously create campaigns with political significance to collaborative production of software and other products, the internet is giving groups of people new ways to create.

It is shifting some of the longstanding social bargains behind modern society.

On very emblematic example from Shirky's book is the industrial (railroad era) relic that is the top-down org chart. As much as the org chart represents a command and control management paradigm, the internet allows for a new paradigm...a new org chart for the 21st century.

If Shirky is right, the 21st century version of an org chart will be a work in progress for a while to come.

The logic of group management during the industrial era - and the institutional infrastructure it gave birth to - has been derailed.


Shirky's book actually catalyzed my decision to go back to school for communications.

Throughout Shirky's book, McLuhan’s words resonate deeply, ‘we shape our tools, and thereafter our tools shape us.’

As much as railroads and industrial machines shaped organizational logic, I believe the internet has potential to reshape that same logic and drive new kinds of human endeavor.

In my statement of purpose, I tried to explain why I think it's so important to study communication:
Considering our evolutionary track record, mankind’s ability to develop increasingly complex technologies – iron smelting and agricultural methods, written language, moveable type, industrial machinery – has consistently set the stage for the punctuated development of increasingly complex human culture. I believe digital communication technologies are an important enunciation of this larger historical arc and will accelerate the ongoing evolution of man, his tools, and his social order.
In short, Shirky's Here Comes Everybody pulls back the curtain on a cultural shift that is ushering in a new era of human collaboration and participation.

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